A top British Airways official yesterday confirmed that the new low air fares between New York and London have added new passengers to the transatlantic market, not diverted others from higher-fare services.
"The evidence at the moment - if we are talking about our own scheduled services - is that quite a bit of the market is new," Roy Watts, director of finance and planning for British Airways, said yesterday.
BA, along with the other airlines on the New York-London route, responded to the introduction of Laker Airways' low-cost, no-reservations Skytrain air passenger service in September with three kinds of low-fare offerings of their own, although officials of some of the airlines complained that the new fares most likely just would divert passengers from their other fares.
Watts said yesterday there was little evidence that had happened, although he acknowledged that some observers feel there might be more diversion from the charter airlines. "Certainly we couldn't claim at the moment that we have diversion," he said. In October and November, for instance, he said BA carried "rather more passengers" on the North Atlantic than usual for those months and "large numbers of stand-by traffic" (one form of low fare).
Watts expects BA to continue to offer the entire package of low fares after their initial expiration in March, although the price levels could change a bit. "I don't see the scene changing the next year," he said. "The fares are here and they appear to be successful."
Watts also disclosed that British Airways is looking into the possibility of instituting shuttle service - patterned after the Eastern Airlines' shuttle between Washington and New York - between London, on the one hand, and Paris, Burssels, Amsterdam and Dublin on the other.
BA introduced shuttle service between London and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast four years ago, but this is the first time it is considering a no-reservations, walk-on high-fequency-"Euro-Shttle" service on the dense routes to some of Europe's capital cities.
The airline is talking with the major airlines with which it competes on those routes because a formula would have to be worked out where the carriers on the different countries on each route could run the shuttle jointly, Watts said. They also would have to develop a different philosophy seeking to identify customers with a destination, not a carrier. "You wouldn't fly British Airways or Air France; you'd fly 'to Paris'," he said.
All shuttles to Europe would have to go through something like a "Eurogate" in a separate satellite building between the main terminals at Heath-row Airport in London, he added.
Watts also said:
BA is in the market this year for 20 planes each seating about 120 persons. In the running are planes made by two American companies, Boeing Co. and McDonnell Douglas Corp.
Concorde flights beween New York and London were 90 to 92 per cent full before Christmas, while the Washington-London Concorde flights fell off to about 60-55 per cent full. The drop was expected because many passengers boarding in Washington had been coming from New York, he said.